Congress to Question Facebook, Twitter CEOs Amid Censorship Concerns

Congress to Question Facebook, Twitter CEOs Amid Censorship Concerns
Twitter CEO Jack Dorsey exits after testifying during a Senate Intelligence Committee hearing on Capitol Hill, on Sept. 5, 2018. (Drew Angerer/Getty Images)
Bowen Xiao

Tech giants need to be held accountable for potential censorship practices, say Republicans on the Senate Judiciary committee who recently voted to subpoena the CEO’s of Twitter and Facebook.

The panel voted 12-0 on Oct. 22 to compel the testimony of Twitter CEO Jack Dorsey and Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg amid a boycott by Democrats protesting an earlier committee vote that advanced the nomination of Judge Amy Coney Barrett to the Supreme Court.
Republicans want to question how the companies handled an Oct. 14 New York Post report about the business dealings of Hunter Biden, the son of Democratic presidential nominee Joe Biden. Conservatives have long accused Big Tech of censoring political speech, particularly that of those on the right.

Three republican senators on the judiciary committee told The Epoch Times that these companies need to be held responsible for their actions. According to Sen. Mike Lee (R-Utah), the time for answers is now.

“Big Tech companies like Google, Twitter, and Facebook routinely silence conservative voices on their platform while allowing the Left to spread lies and misinformation,” Lee told The Epoch Times in a statement.

“This hypocrisy is not sustainable and we will hold these companies accountable,” he added.

Democrats and Big Tech have repeatedly denied such targeted suppression exists.

A Facebook spokesperson declined to comment for this article. A Twitter spokesperson did not immediately respond.

Sen. Ted Cruz (R-Texas) told The Epoch Times that since the Post was first censored, he has been seeking answers from Dorsey and Zuckerberg about “why they are suppressing free speech and censoring the press before Election Day.”

Cruz said the Senate Judiciary Committee unanimously voted to subpoena them both to hear them “tell the American people why they’re trying to steal the election.”

“These Silicon Valley billionaires are acting as Democrats’ willing henchmen, and they have more power than William Randolph Hearst at the height of yellow journalism could have only imagined,” Cruz added. “The American people deserve answers.”

The panel announced on Oct. 23 that Dorsey and Zuckerberg agreed to appear voluntarily at a Nov. 17 hearing. The pair were already scheduled to testify before the Senate Commerce Committee on Oct. 28 about their content moderation policies.

Sen. Marsha Blackburn (R-Tenn) said the power these companies wield is unprecedented.

“Someone working for a private company made a unilateral decision to stop Americans from reading that article. They didn’t like it,” Blackburn told The Epoch Times in a statement.

“They said ‘I have the power to stop it, and because I have that power, I am going to stop it,’” she added.

It’s not just politicians who worry about censorship on social media platforms. Roughly three-quarters of U.S. adults say it is “very likely” or “somewhat likely” that social media sites “intentionally censor political viewpoints that they find objectionable,” according to an August survey by the Pew Research Center.

While people across the political spectrum believe censorship is taking place, the belief is particularly strong among Republicans, the Center said.

On Twitter, the Post’s initial report on Hunter Biden could not be shared because the URL was blocked by the platform. Twitter also hasn’t unlocked the Post’s Twitter account, with a spokesperson telling them they would need to delete the Hunter Biden tweets to “regain access.”
Facebook spokesman Andy Stone, meanwhile, said in a post that the story was “eligible to be fact checked” and that they are “reducing its distribution” on their platform.

Tony Bobulinski, a former business associate of Hunter Biden, confirmed that he was one of the recipients of the email published last week by the Post, which details proposed payout packages and equity shares in a Biden venture with a now-defunct Chinese energy conglomerate.

Bobulinski told The Epoch Times in an email that the deal outlined in the message concerned a partnership between Chinese energy firm CEFC and the Biden family.

The “big guy” in the email was a reference to Joe Biden, he said.

The provenance of the emails published by the Post has been the subject of heated dispute, which has been magnified by its proximity to the presidential election.

When Biden was asked in person by CBS News reporter Bo Erickson for his response to the Post story he replied: “I know you’d ask it. I have no response, it’s another smear campaign, right up your alley, those are the questions you always ask.”

During an Oct. 22 press conference, Bobulinski said he met with Biden in May 2017 and spent one hour discussing a deal with a Chinese energy conglomerate and the Biden family history.
The Biden campaign fired back after the conference.

“As Chris Wallace said on the air about this very smear, ‘Vice President Biden has actually released his tax returns—unlike President Trump—and there is no indication he ever got any money from anybody in these business deals,’” Biden campaign spokesman Andrew Bates said in a statement to Fox News.

He added that Biden “has never even considered being involved in business with his family, nor in any overseas business whatsoever,” noting that “he has never held stock in any such business arrangements nor has any family member or any other person ever held stock for him.”

Ivan Pentchoukov contributed to this report.
Bowen Xiao was a New York-based reporter at The Epoch Times. He covers national security, human trafficking and U.S. politics.
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